Mona Charen is troubled because Oregon governor Theodore Kulongoski is attempting to feed himself on $21 worth of food stamps per week.
There really aren’t any logical reasons for her to be annoyed by this, but she didn’t rise to her current eminence in conservatarian circles by being unable to manufacture overdetermined grievances on the fly. Thus, we learn right off the bat that Kulongoski is prone to grandstanding:
Associated Press photos showed the governor pushing a shopping cart and ostentatiously relinquishing a noodle cup and two bananas at the checkout counter when his total topped $21.A typical liberal! He’s supposed to be calling attention to the plight of the poor, and instead he’s swanning around in ruffles and frills, ostentatiously relinquishing noodle cups like some debauched princeling out of Ronald Firbank. The fucker probably windsurfs, too.
Onwards and upwards. Just as piranhas must swim and mosquitoes must fly, Charen must
Let us stipulate that in a country as wealthy as ours, the idea that anyone should go hungry is unacceptable.With that humanist boilerplate out of the way, it’s open season on the ungrateful poor and their pathetic liberal courtiers (many of whom, you may be interested to know, are still living in the sixties).
Why is it that whenever you listen to a Democrat you feel that the year is 1966? They seem to live in a time warp in which no progress has been made on race relations, poverty, childhood malnutrition, and on and on.We’ll hear more about that “progress” in a moment. Meanwhile, Charen notes that “a family of four with no income…is entitled to $518 monthly or about $32 weekly [in food stamps] for each person.” In other words, by trying to support himself on the average recipient's income, Kulongoski’s making things worse than they need to be, to the tune of eleven whole dollars. Think how many noodle cups he could’ve bought with that windfall!
Because this is such an important point, Charen conscientiously dumbs it down for the chumps in the nosebleed seats:
Perhaps the governor’s office is correct that the average food stamp allotment in the state is $21. But that means some get more and some less.I advise you to cling to that scrap of logical thought as to a life-preserver, because the seas are about to get very rough indeed.
Charen concedes that $32 isn’t much more money than $21, but points out that it’s “only a small part of the largesse provided by the U.S. government.”
It doesn’t count hot breakfasts and lunches at school (which push high-calorie, high-fat diets on kids).This is odd for two reasons. The first, obviously, is that stuffing children with dirt-cheap, low-quality, unhealthy food hardly qualifies as “largesse.”
The second is that Charen goes on to cite obesity as evidence for her claim that “progress” has been made on malnutrition since 1966:
Douglas Besharov of the American Enterprise Institute notes that while he can recall visiting rural Mississippi in the 1960s and seeing severe cases of malnutrition, the problem among the poor today is more likely to be obesity.And as everyone knows, malnutrition and obesity are mutually exclusive.
Charen seems to feel that welfare programs, or "entitlements run amuck," are behind at least some of the nation’s obesity problems. And she’s right, inasmuch as the low quality of school food (and the presence of soda and fast-food vendors in lunchrooms) has a great deal to do with agribusiness subsidies. And I’m not just talking about our heavily subsidized overproduction of corn (and high-fructose corn syrup). There’s also the fact that the school lunch program itself comprises a gigantic handout to agribusiness:
"Basically, it's a welfare program for suppliers of commodities," says Jennifer Raymond, a retired nutritionist in Northern California who has worked with schools to develop healthier menus. "It's a price support program for agricultural producers, and the schools are simply a way to get rid of the items that have been purchased."Solving this problem would, among other things, require a national rejection of the crony corporatism that Charen and her co-religionists at NRO have devoted their careers to defending, so it’s not surprising that the remedy she suggests is a trifle...lackluster:
We are pushing food at the poor as if hunger and malnutrition still crouched at the door when the bigger threat these days is saturated fat and excess sugar. The Food Stamp program arguably needs a massive reform, offering cash grants instead of vouchers or credit cards, which encourage over-consumption.This is surely the handiwork of wisdom, because I don’t understand a word of it. Who’s pushing unhealthy food at the poor, according to Charen, and why? It’s hard to say. What’s any of this got to do with Gov. Kulongoski’s attempt to highlight the difficulty of living on $21 per week? Your guess is as good as mine. How do food stamps “encourage over-consumption,” and why wouldn’t “cash grants” do the same or worse? I can’t begin to imagine.
It's interesting how she wavers momentarily on the threshold between her world and ours, as she tries to tease out the connection between childhood obesity and government welfare programs. But in the end, of course, she recognizes it as the only thing it can be: Yet another unintended consequence of the Nanny State.
Clearly, we need to get private business involved...